Attractions & Local Information
Day Hikes: Walking
in Wonderland of the Great Smokies
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a
paradise found for people who like to walk in the
mountains. Over 150 different trails are maintained
in the park, more than 800 miles is all, offering
hikers a lifetime’s worth of exploration and
adventure. Hikers enjoy the Smoky Mountains during
all months of the year with every season offering
its own special rewards. During the winter, the
absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas along
trails and reveals stone walls, chimneys,
foundations and other reminders of past residents.
Spring provides a weekly parade of wildflowers and
flowing trees, and event celebrated by hikers from
across the country. In summer, walkers can seek out
cool retreats among the spruce and fir forest and
balds or follow splashy mountain streams to roaring
waterfalls and cascades. Autumn hikers have crisp,
dry air to sharpen their senses and a varied palette
of fall foliage to enjoy. One of the most daunting
tasks facing hikers is choosing a trail. Start by
deciding on what you would like to see. Then decide
how far you would like to hike. If you haven’t hiked
much recently, be conservative. 5 miles roundtrip
is good maximum distance for novices. Be sure to
allow plenty of time to complete your hike before
dark. Sunset times vary from a little after 5 pm in
December to a slightly before 9 pm in June. Since
the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is
America’s most popular national park, some foot
traffic on certain trails can be heavy. However most
trails receive surprisingly light use. The Great
Smoky Mountains National Park’s most
popular trails are: Abrams Falls, Alum Cave, Chimney
Tops, Forney Ridge (to Andrews Bald), Laurel Falls
(to the falls), Rainbow Falls, Ramsey Cascades, the
Appalachian Trail (between Newfound Gap and Charlie
Bunion), and Trillium Gap (to Grotto Falls). Most
other trails offer solitude.
Hikes: Most trails in the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park were converted from old
roads or railroads. Since most routes were linear
rather than circular, there are relatively few short
loop hikes in the Smokies today. Listed below are
some of the best for day hikers.
Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Mountain: Distance: 8.5 miles, Difficulty:
Moderate, Highlights: Views of Cades Cove,
mountain laurel blooms in May and good fall colors
in October. Park in the large parking area at the
start of Cades Cove Loop Road. The trail starts
across the road from the parking area, just past the
barricade. Follow Rich Mountain Loop Trail to
Indian Grave Gap Trail and continue on to Crooked
Arm Ridge Trail.
Gap: Distance: 5.5 miles, Difficulty:
Easy, Highlights: spring wildflowers. Park
near the barricade at the start of Little River
Trail above Elkmont Campground. Follow Little River
Trail to Cucumber Gap Trail and continue on to Jakes
Creek Trail. Follow Jakes Creek Trail down to the
old cabins and walk the road back to your vehicle.
Creek: Distance: 4.1 miles, Difficulty:
moderate, Highlights: Tom Branch and Indian
Creek Falls. Park at the end of Deep Creek
trailhead (at the end of the Deep Creek Road).
Follow Deep Creek Trail to Indian Creek Trail and
follow the latter to Loop Trail. Follow Loop Trail
to Deep Creek Trail and descent to the trailhead.
Distance: 6.1 miles, Difficulty: moderate,
Highlights: mountain streams, wildflowers.
Park in the designated hikers parking area in
Smokemont campground. Walk to the Bradley Fork
Trailhead in D-Loop and follow Bradley Fork Trail to
Smokemont Loop Trail. Smokemont Loop Trail returns
you to Smokemont Campground.
Loop: Distance: 7.4 miles, Difficulty:
moderate, Highlights: old-growth forest.
Park at Cataloochee campground and walk up the road
a short distance to Caldwell Fork Trail. Follow
Caldwell Fork Trail to Boogerman Trail. Continue
along Boogerman Trail to Caldwell Fork Trail and
take it back to the trailhead.
Hikes with Views
Bald: Roundtrip distance: 3.6 miles,
Difficulty: moderate. Park in the large
parking area at the end of Clingmans Dome Road and
take the Forney Ridge Trail to Andres Bald. Use
caution, this trail is very rocky.
Tops Trail: Roundtrip distance: 4 miles,
Difficulty: strenuous. The Chimney Tops
Trailhead is signed and located on the Newfound Gap
road 7.7 miles south of Sugarlands Visitor center (7
miles north of Newfound Gap).
Bunion: Roundtrip Distance: 8 miles,
Difficulty: moderate. Park at the large parking
area at Newfound Gap and take the Appalachian Trail
Dome: Roundtrip distance: 1 mile,
Difficulty: moderate. Park at the large parking
area at the end of Clingmans dome Road. The trail to
the observation tower of Clingmans Dome is paved,
but very steep.
Ridge: Roundtrip distance to Gregory
Bald: 11.4 miles, Difficulty: Strenuous.
Trailhead is at the end of Forge Creek Road in Cades
Rock Tower: Roundtrip distance: 1 mile,
Difficulty: moderate. The hard-surfaced
trail to the observation tower starts from the
Sterling: Roundtrip distance: 5.4 miles,
Difficulty: strenuous. Mt. Sterling trail
begins from old North Carolina 284 which runs
between Big Creek and Cataloochee. The road is
unpaved but ok for passenger cars. The trail to the
old fire tower is very steep.
Tower: Roundtrip distance: 7 miles,
Difficulty: strenuous. To hike the Appalachian
Trail to Shuckstack, cross Fontana Dam and continue
0.6 mile to the trailhead. Hike the steep trail
north towards Birch Spring Gap and Doe Knob.
Le Conte: Roundtrip distance: 10
miles, Difficulty: strenuous. Alum Cave
Trail starts from a large, signed parking area 6.8
miles south of Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound
Gap Road (US 441). Hiking just to Alum cave Bluffs,
a popular destination for day hikers, is 4.6 miles
roundtrip. (There is not an actual cave at the
bluffs.) Alum cave Trail continues to near the top
of Mt. Le Conte (6,593'). There are excellent views
from cliff Tops and Myrtle Point.
Field/ Russell Field Loop: Roundtrip distance:
13.2 miles, Difficulty: strenuous. From Cades Cove
Picnic Area, take Anthony Creek Trail to Bote
Mountain Trail to Spence Field. Follow the
Appalachian Trail south to Russell Field and descend
Russell Field Trail to Anthony Creek Trail and Cades
Cove Picnic Area.